EGL 165 — Speakeasy: The Pleasures of Writing Good Dialogue
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Oct 5—Nov 30
Time: 6:30—8:45 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Oct 7
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Instructor(s): Daniel Schifrin
Class Recording Available: Yes
Dialogue is among the most difficult elements to get right in creative writing. In this deep dive into the potential of written speech, we will explore how masters of multiple genres have deployed dialogue to convey—with remarkable concision and texture—a combination of information, character, and drama. How, for instance, does Grace Paley manage to write dinner table chatter in which we appear to hear every voice simultaneously? How do playwrights like David Mamet and Sarah Ruhl create unique styles of spoken English that still sound like people we know? What can we learn from the uses (or misuses) of dialect, from Mark Twain to August Wilson? Key to our investigation is something we were told since childhood not to do—eavesdrop. By listening to actual speech, and analyzing it side by side with published work, we will uncover the magic in both hearing and producing good dialogue. Finally, we will write our own dialogues, either as part of our own works in progress, or as stepping-stones to future projects. Students will have multiple opportunities to receive feedback on their work, both through class discussion and in writing from the instructor. Students will come away with an appreciation of their own ability to create dialogue that sounds authentic, distinctive, and lively.
Daniel Schifrin has taught creative writing at UC Berkeley and SF State, and served as writer in residence at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. His fiction and essays have appeared in McSweeney's, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and he is the author of the plays Sweet and Sour, String Theory, and At Rise. He received the 2016 Wilner Award in Short Fiction.
Journalist; Playwright; Fiction Writer
Textbooks for this course:
There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.